The Downbeat #1136 -- The "Centers" Edition

"What? I played for the Nets? When did this happen?" - USA TODAY Sports

You know what's exciting? Dinosaur break dancing dance-offs. Ok. Yes. That's exciting. But you know what ELSE is exciting? What else is exciting is that this year we pretty much get a chance to evaluate our guys within a larger frame of reference than ever before. The Utah Jazz drafted Gordon Hayward #9 in 2010 after he was the point forward who led his underdog team to within a minor trajectory change away from being National Champions. We effectively 'bought him' for what he could do. Of course, we could argue that we did not use him in the way that he was sold or marketed as -- as a point forward leader. (Hard to lead when your job is to stand in the corner and watch Al Jefferson struggle with crossing halfcourt) That same season the Utah Jazz traded away their best player, Deron Williams, for Derrick Favors. Favors was drafted at #3, taken a little high compared to his projected on-court production as a rookie, but taken so high because he had the potential to deserve such a rank. Within that same trade, the Jazz also collected the Brookyln Nets' NEXT draft pick, that eventually became #3 pick Enes Kanter. Kanter had even fewer chances to display on-court production, but was also drafted in that Favorian manner. He's big. He has the chance to be huge. He just needs get a chance to show his stuff. In 2011 the Jazz also drafted another young player, Albert Brooks. (Sometimes written as Alec Burks by heathens) Brooks is a virtual unknown, despite people on both sides of the "is he good" debate being wildly certain of their individual answers. Most recently, in 2013, the Jazz moved up to draft Trey Burke. Burke, like Brooks, is either great or horrible. But unlike his erstwhile backcourt mate Albert, Burke hasn't even played a minute of NBA ball yet, and people are already proclaiming him to be the next big bust, or next rookie of the year.

What's exciting is that we get a chance to see what we are working with, with these five lotto picks. We 'bought' Hayward as the best player on the team that didn't win the title. We 'bought' Burke based on the same marketing, but he was also the player of the year in the NCAAs. Favors and Kanter were both bought upon the idea of growth potential. While Alec Burks was purchased based on his athletic ability and combo guard skills.

This is an All-Star team in college. They're not in college anymore. Some of them are going into their fourth seasons in the NBA. Did we draft well? Are these guys worth their draft spots? Did the Jazz get what they 'paid for'? It's going to be exciting this year as we find out.

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This is ***essentially*** the kind of conversation that I would love to have with former Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur.

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I'm a numbers guy. Some numbers are important. Some numbers are trivia. Some numbers are trivial. But all numbers add up to something. Here are the double double (points / rebounds) numbers in a Jazz uniform for our greatest centers in recent history:

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What do those numbers add up to? I totally know what's on your mind right now: "Man . . . break dancing dinosaurs though? That would be so sweet." But we have to move on from that topic (if only one could, I am but a man), and look at our super long rookie Rudy Gobert. Rudy wasn't mentioned earlier because he's not a lotto pick, but you know what? He actually looks like he could be a double double machine down the line (time permitting) because he actually seems to have offensive moves to go with his historic length. For most of our centers the problem wasn't getting rebounds at all, it was doing enough to make it appear like the Jazz weren't playing 4 on 5 on offense. Kanter, yeah, he's a stud. He is scoring in traffic right now as a guy who was a teen a few months ago. But none of his moves look easy. He scores like Moses Malone scored, with grit, effort, and contact. Gobert seems almost graceful, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (This isn't saying that Kanter = a HOF center, and Gobert = a HOF center. I'm just visualizing their scoring mechanics by pointing out contrasting styles from highly visible players we may be familiar with.)

Does that make Gobert more likely than Kanter to collect double doubles? I don't think so. Kanter also runs the floor very well already, while Gobert doesn't run the floor at all. Gobert, like others of his size, rely upon continental drift to get to where he's going. Getting in transition gets you easy buckets.


But that shot at 2:44 tho . . .

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I love our centers. Mark Eaton was a two time Defensive Player of the Year, and one time All-Star. Memo was super clutch, allowed us to run Dick Motta's forward oriented offense in the time of zone defenses because of his three point shot, and was a one time All-Star. Greg Ostertag was a lovable goof. The Koof and Fes were Disney characters. Even Big Al wasn't horrible every time. But who is the best Jazz center ever? Not to color your perception of events, but by the numbers, it's obvious that Memo is the right answer. But you guys are allowed to be wrong : )

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